On April 27, 2011, an EF-5 tornado devastated the tiny rural town of Phil Campbell in northwest Alabama. The town suffered extensive damage, and 27 residents lost their lives.
However, three years later the town continues to rebuild. This fall a brand-new high school opened, and about 50 percent of the homes have been rebuilt. It also will be getting a boost of affordable rental housing when The Village at Oliver Place is completed by the end of the year.
Prior to the tornado, there had been a shortage of affordable housing and much of the rental stock was older single-family homes.
“Shortly after the tornado, FEMA brought in a team of consultants that worked with the town on how to rebuild. One of the priorities for the town was to provide rental housing, and that’s where this project grew out of,” says Michael Shafer, community development coordinator for the Community Action Partnership of North Alabama (CAPNA), the Decatur, Ala.–based nonprofit behind The Village at Oliver Place.
CAPNA broke ground on The Village at Oliver Place in April to coincide with the third anniversary of the storm.
“That community needed something very positive,” says Michael Tubbs, executive director of CAPNA. “It fits our mission, but it’s also a high-need area.”
The 24 two- and three-bedroom townhomes will serve households earning 50 percent and 60 percent of the area median income. The project also will include a community room and a gazebo.
The development team expects the project to lease within 90 days after construction is completed. “There’s usually a lot of people who are ready to inhabit these townhomes when completed,” says Richard Lyons, community development team leader at CAPNA.
The $4.3 million development was made possible through the allocation of low-income housing tax credits and Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery funds from the state. Raymond James Tax Credit Funds provided the tax credit equity, and additional financing included HOME funds and a first mortgage through local lender Bank Independent.
“2011 for us seems a long time ago, but for the people whose housing stock was destroyed, this has been a wonderful opportunity,” says Tubbs.